[UPDATE 2/15/12: Today, the Daily Herald catches up to us with a brief article on the issue.]
I received a press release from the campaign of Lauren Turelli, who is running for the Republican nomination for the 58th legislative District, which of course is now held by retiring State Rep. Karen May. Turrelli supports the plan recently unveiled by Democratic Governor Pat Quinn to cut $2 billion from the state's Medicare program. I asked Turelli's primary opponent, Dr. Mark Neerhof for a response, and they were happy to oblige. Needless to say, we have two candidates who seem very far apart on this issue.
So, here is Turelli's press release, followed by Neerhof's response. Remember ya saw it first on Team America. ;-)
Lauren Turelli Backs $2 Billion Cuts as First
Step to Reform Medicaid and Balance the Budget
LAKE FOREST – Republican State Representative candidate LAUREN TURELLI announced her support today for Governor Pat Quinn’s $2 billion cuts in Medicaid as a first step in reforming Medicaid and balancing the budget. Turelli has repeatedly advocated specific reforms to the Medicaid program, including a rollback of eligibility standards to pre-2002 levels, the appointment of an independent auditing firm to identify waste and fraud on a commission-fee basis, and a re-evaluation of provider billing practices and fee payments. A fiscal conservative who is a long-time advocate of Medicaid reform, pension reform and a repeal of the 67% income tax increase, LAUREN TURELLI was recently endorsed by the TAXPAYERS UNITED OF AMERICA-PAC (TUA-PAC) for her efforts to improve Illinois’ business climate.
In making this announcement, Turelli acknowledged that “even though Governor Quinn changes his mind weekly about whether to spend more or spend less, I think all Illinoisans need to immediately lock him into a commitment to reduce Medicaid spending by $2 billion to begin the journey towards a balanced budget”. While two billion dollars a year for four years will only bring the State of Illinois current on its present backlog of bill payments, Governor Quinn’s willingness to put this ‘sacred cow’ on the table represents a major victory in our fight to force the Democrat-controlled government in Springfield to admit that throwing more money at a problem is not going to fix it.”
Turelli explained that “Medicaid was originally designed to provide indigent and disabled persons with access to basic medical treatment and prescription drugs which otherwise would be unavailable to them. Nevertheless, in the last decade of Democrat-controlled government in Springfield, Medicaid enrollment increased by sixty-six percent, resulting in one out of five Illinoisans participating in the program.”
Turelli further noted that “this increase has resulted in Medicaid spending becoming the largest and fastest growing line item in the Illinois state budget. More specifically, from 2001 to 2008, Medicaid spending increased from $8.4 billion to $13.8 billion dollars, or sixty-five percent. In FY 2009, Medicaid spending comprised about 30% of the state’s budget.”
Turelli went on to say that “special interests have driven our state budgets and resulting deficits to such a disastrous level that we no longer have any choice but to institute deep and aggressive reforms to stop the hemorrhaging. Forty percent of our state budget now covers Medicaid payments alone because special interest groups have been calling the shots down in Springfield – a practice I will fight to end by advocating that we cut, cut some more, and then cut some more, until we dig ourselves out of this hole. That means every person or entity involved in the Medicaid program – doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and patients – must join together in sharing the burdens necessary to reform this out-of control program because Illinois politicians can longer protect one special interest group to the detriment of our state as a whole.
The Neerhof campaign responds....
Dr. Neerhof Supports Bold Medicaid Reform
Quinn/Turelli plan tinkers around the edges and ignores fundamental problems
Dr. Mark Neerhof, Republican candidate for state Representative in the 58th district responded today to his opponent’s announcement of support for Governor Quinn’s proposal to cut $2 billion dollars from Medicaid as a first step in reforming Medicaid. He stated that this proposal is the wrong first step.
Dr. Neerhof agrees that Medicaid reform is desperately needed, but we need bold reform, not the type of tinkering around the edges of the status quo that Ms. Turelli and Governor Quinn are proposing. Dr. Neerhof understands we need to provide means-based premium assistance to patients in need to assist them in obtaining their own low cost health insurance policies. By doing so, we will provide cost-effective health care to the patients that need it the most.
Medicaid already has 2.5 billion dollars of unpaid bills from last year. This year, Illinois is expected to have in excess of 3 billion dollars in unpaid bills, and the Civic Federation has recently announced that the total of unpaid Medicaid bills is expected to total 21 billion dollars by the end of 2017. To propose cutting 2 billion dollars from the Medicaid budget when we are already not paying our bills not only does not solve any problems, it actually aggravates problems with access to care. Because of the failure of the state to pay its Medicaid bills, fewer physicians are willing to care for Medicaid patients and many patients cannot access care. To further reduce reimbursements would only worsen access to care for patients that need it the most.